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Three-Year Rotations Best For Potatoes

Potatoes being harvested in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. Rotating potatoes with cover crops provides many benefits, including nitrogen management, improved soil and water quality, and bigger potatoes and higher yields.

Potatoes being harvested in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. Rotating potatoes with cover crops provides many benefits, including nitrogen management, improved soil and water quality, and bigger potatoes and higher yields.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been investigating new cost-efficient options for increasing yields of potatoes and improving production sustainability. The researchers determined that three-year crop rotations generally helped break the host-pathogen cycle more effectively than two-year rotations. The three-year rotations provided better disease control and resulted in higher crop yields. These rotations also supported beneficial soil microbes that improve soil quality by increasing soil organic matter or by inhibiting plant pathogens. After weighing the costs and benefits of different management systems, researchers concluded that using a combination of Brassica and sudangrass green manures, fall cover crops and crop rotations can reduce soilborne diseases by up to 58 percent, and adding compost to the mix increases tuber yields up to 42 percent.

This report appears in the November 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.